FeedithNOLA: Slowing down with food
On a sunny afternoon at Docville Farm, we showed our daughter the chickens and horses, learned how to prepare traditional Cajun dishes, and meandered the grounds while grazing on local meats and fish prepared by a handful of New Orleans chefs.
Here, like so much of Louisiana, food and community are inextricably intertwined in a beautiful and delicious way: a traditional boucherie and fish boil, the culminating event of Slow Fish 2016 hosted by Slow Food New Orleans. Somewhere between Edith gleefully reaching for a shiny red snapper and my own primal grab for meat off the bones from a whole slow-roasted lamb, I think I reached self-actualization. To say that we live and eat like this every day would be a lie. Growing up, my plate consisted of beige with an occasional side of tomato product. Even my master plan to raise Edith as a foodie sometimes hits the wall of the demands of every day life.
New Orleans taught me how to love and experience food, but my mass-produced culinary skeletons can still come back to haunt me. I try not tell to tell people about my nine-year, prolonged-adolescent vegetarian-phase. Unfortunately, I wasn't the local, organic, farm-to-table type; I stuck to a strict diet of french fries and cheese tortellini.
When I was pregnant with Edith, my single craving was a McDonald’s fillet-o-fish sandwich with fries and an orange soda. (The shame of pulling off I-10 for those golden arches and eating in the parking lot was immediately offset by the sweet, sweet endorphins of fat and salt.) Thankfully, since our daughter was born, we eat more bison, kale, and wild mushrooms than fast food, but still, I think a lot more about taste and my family’s health than where our food comes from or its human or environmental impact.At Slow Fish 2016 fishermen, chefs, and foodies gathered from across the country and spoke about the intersection of local food, community, and the environment with the fervor of evangelicals spreading the gospel.
Gary Granata, chair of Slow Food New Orleans, preached about the erosion of our wetlands and the rapidly expanding dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The congregation sang together "Waves in; waves out; sinking..." and later shared stories based on the prompt, "a pleasurable experience with the water in our home." It was easy to get swept up in the passionate conviction of the crowd. That is, until my phone buzzed with an alert from my Subway app for a discount on a new breakfast sandwich... I’m guessing the Slow Foods crowd has a different definition of how to “eat fresh.”
This was just one nagging reminder of the pace of everyday life. In reality, it's not practical for my family to switch to 100% "slow" food. And as we nourish our 1-year-old daughter and try to model good eating habits around her, we avoid fast food whenever we can. We're left somewhere in the middle. Perhaps in the "moderately paced food" section? Although, that doesn't really have the same ring to it.
Seth Hamstead, treasurer of Slow Food New Orleans and part-owner of Continental Provisions, helped me narrow down some ways that we can all slow the pace of our busy food lives:
- Cook at home using whole, seasonal ingredients. Note: If you're new to the South, remember that our harvest seasons may be different than what you're used to!
- Ask about where your food comes from at your favorite restaurants or grocery store. Edith enjoys asking questions and attempting to eat all of the colorful vegetables at local farmer's markets like CCFM or Hollygrove.
- Learn about your own family traditions and regional foodways. Edith will learn how to make fresh pasta, enjoy a side of kimchi, and eat her body weight in crawfish.
- Share a meal with family and friends. Food is more than just nourishment for the body, allows us to connect with one another. Plus, good food always tastes better with good company.
- Multitask by turning chores into activities. Sometimes, you just need some milk from the store down the street; we've all been there. But when you can, use shopping for fresh fruits & veggies to explore colors with your little one. Prepare meals together as a family. I can't wait until Edith is old enough to help me make dinner, rather than hangrily observing from her highchair.
Kim Frusciante is an educator, Tulane alumna, and new mom who loves all things New Orleans. Though she wishes she could claim to be a native New Orleanian, she will happily settle for raising one instead. Kim is passionate about enjoying the culture of our city with her daughter, Edith, and helping others to do the same with their little ones. Let Edith be your test-baby: Email Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kim (well, Edith…) on Instagram @feedithnola.